"A writer has to read everything from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations to the backs of cereal boxes."

Author:
Publish date:


Ever since we received a galley of John Dufresne’s latest writing book, Is Life Like This?, a couple of us WD staffers have had a bit of a literary crush on his work. For our September issue, the editor of WD and I assembled a feature called “10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook,” in which various writing gurus riff on common “rules” and accepted wisdoms of the pen—“Show, Don’t Tell,” “Kill Your Darlings,” etc.—and opine on when to follow them, and when to break them. Which gave us an excuse to invite Dufresne into WD land. (And to subsequently bring him back for a full-length feature in our forthcoming January issue.)

After detailing the importance of writing ever day, Dufresne riffed on why you shouldn’t follow the credo “Read What You Like to Write.” A portion of his explanation is the latest from Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series (the quote-worthy quips that branded themselves in my mind when we were creating these magazines throughout the year). A regular prompt follows. Read on and write on.

No. 16: The Need to Read
“Don’t disregard this rule, but don’t let it limit you, either—because it’s not enough to read what you like to write. A writer has to read everything from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations to the backs of cereal boxes. The writer’s problem, and his opportunity, his obligation, is to know the world. Imaginative writing is a craft that favors the diligent and informed over the inspired and indifferent. You need to know the world, and you also need to develop your craftsmanship. The best teachers of fiction, for example, are the great works of fiction themselves. You may learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Chekhov’s “Heartache” than you could in a semester of Creative Writing 101."
—John Dufresne, “10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook,” September 2010 (click here to check the rest of the issue out)

***


WRITING PROMPT: Battles

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Write a scene about someone at war—on a battlefield in an actual war, at home, in a boardroom, in a relationship.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 14

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a "from where you're sitting" poem.

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Writer and editor Matthew Daddona explains how to easily create tension in your poems and how that adds weight to your message.

Natalie Lund: On Grief and Unanswered Questions in YA Fiction

Natalie Lund: On Grief and Unanswered Questions in YA Fiction

YA author Natalie Lund shares how she handles the subject of death for a YA audience in her latest novel The Sky Above Us.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 13

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a Lucky and/or Unlucky poem.

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between plotter and pantser. Learn what a plotter means in writing and how they differ from pantsers here.

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Learn the differences of waist vs. waste on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Novelist Bridget Foley explains the seed that grew into her latest book Just Get Home and how she stayed hopeful in the face of rejection.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 12

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a six words poem.